Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Belgian cookbook author Regula Ysewijn when taught herself English by reading Pride and Prejudice, and also by watching soap operas on the BBC. This week she tells us how our childhood fascination with British culture led her to study British baking history from jam roly polies to giant gingerbreads. She explains what it takes to adapt 18th and 19th century recipes for modern bakers.
Regula Ysewijn: In the past, recipes weren't written as very solid instructions as they are today. I mean, today we exaggerate almost in how we write a recipe. It's like you're holding someone's hand, and everything is explained sometimes into the ridiculous but in the older cookery books, the recipes are tiny.
CK: Also coming up, we make Passatelli in Brodo a simple supper from Bolognia. And Adam Gopnik ponders outdoor dining in New York. But first it's my interview with reporter Amy Gutmann, who brings us the story of the Kama bar is Estonia's chocolate less chocolate bar. Amy, welcome back to Milk Street.
Amy Gutman: Thanks, Chris.
CK: So, since we last spoke, you've been to Estonia, right?
AG: I have yes. I went there to chase some fake chocolate and the history of Estonia's production of a fake chocolate bar.
CK: So, you spoke with Otto Kubo. He's the oldest employee at Kavel the place that makes this chocolate less chocolate bar.
AG: Yes. So, Otto Kubo. His colleague’s oldest employee in Kavel is the oldest and only a chocolate company in Estonia. he first came to college as a chemist back in 1955. He's really become the face and Ambassador of Kava. And he gave me a wonderful tour around the Maiasmokk café in the capital Tallinn both the confectionery company and the cafe were joined together years ago, in the Soviet era,
Otto Kubo: During 100 years, we had here in Kavel, more than forty different sweets factories. And this was still raced here. But in 1940, the Soviets came and nationalized everything and merged them into one big factory.
CK: So, they produce marzipan for centuries, marzipan was used as a medicine, against headache and broken hearts. That's, that's wonderful. And then, of course, chocolate. So, what happened?
AG: So, in 1976, there was a major cocoa crisis around the world prices rose five times current levels, cocoa simply became inaccessible to countries in the Soviet Union, because trade was centralized, and states lack the buying power. Estonia's only chocolate company, Kavel, had already been working on an alternative to simulate the taste of chocolate, and they were experimenting with this local group of flours. This is rye, wheat, barley and pea flours. These are all indigenous to Estonia. And historically, this group of flours Kama is typically mixed with sour milk or yogurt to make a cooling summer drink that everyone drinks. And again, it's been around for quite some time in Estonia.
OK: In the 18th, and 19th century, kama was used by the peasants, when they made hay. In summer, they put kama flour into sour milk, and added a bit of salt. And it was very good. And also healthy.
CK: So how does someone come up with this idea? I mean, you're making a chocolate bar with rye, wheat, barley and pea flour?
AG: So, I think it was fairly obvious to them to take something that was already very familiar. I mean, kids and grownups all drink kama. So, they took this group of flours and they mixed it with coffee, evaporated milk, sugar, and a couple of other magic ingredients to create the kama bar. And it's beloved,
OK: During those days when we produced were in very big amounts kama in the 80s, we sent to Siberia, and even to the Far East.
CK: So, the bar was discontinued, I guess with independence in 91. But then it came back 10 years later, why would a chocolate chocolate bar go back into production?
AG: So, you're absolutely right. Once they gained their independence in 1991, the Kama bar was retired in favor of all the international branded products. But yes, less than 10 years later, there happened to be a situation where a group of pensioners or senior citizens went to visit the Kalev factory for a tour. And they were asking about the Kama bar, why don't you make it anymore? We really want it back.
OK: And then we started to make Kama. During a short time, more than 1,500,000 Kama bars were sold.
CK: I mean, the question is, obviously, is this something you'd want to eat or not? You know if you can get the real deal?
AG: You haven't tasted it yet Chris, have you?
CK: Okay, well, I have it here. It's got this nice package, although it does have a certain sort of Soviet era feel to it. I say, it looks like milk chocolate. It's not dark. So, I'm going to just yeah, bite into it.
AG: First impressions?
CK: I really like it.
AG: You do
CK: You know why I like it. Maybe because I used to be hippie, but it's not an overwhelmingly sweet, luxurious hit of dark chocolate. It's more complicated. It's not that it feels healthy. It just has a more agricultural depth to it. It's interesting. I kind of like it
AG: I don't think I've ever heard that description of a food before an agricultural depth. Not as creamy as milk chocolate a little more earthy,
CK: but it's good. It's good. I'm shocked. I'm shocked that I kind of like it.
AG: Well, I'm I'm pleased. I think that's terrific. I think you might be an honorary Estonian now.
CK: So, here's my question. You know, here's a bar from the Soviet era. Now, Estonia is independent. Why would a throwback, fake chocolate bar come back into vogue?
AG: I think the major reason why it's so popular is the nostalgia for a very large part of the population, not just the older folks. I mean, this 30-year-old woman, Helen that we spoke to had some wonderfully fond memories.
Helen: Yes, it reminds me of my childhood, the old town, city center, this particular cafe, I was here on my lessons of English and so, me and my mother came here, picked up the Kama bar and then we went home.
AG: She just had such a warm smile on her face, as she described it. Whenever you have this kind of food that you're given by your parents, as a child, I guess a lot of us have fond memories of that. So that's one really big driver. But the other factor is, if you think about it, Estonia has gained independence since 1991. So that's not very long ago. So, the younger generation that's coming up, will not have the same negative association with the Soviet era. They'll just see this as something cool. And they are seeing it as something cool.
CK: Amy, thank you so much the story of the Kama bar, a fake chocolate bar that I actually like, thank you.
AG: Thank you, Chris.
CK: That was reporter Amy Gutman. Right now. My cohost, Sara Moulton and I will be answering your cooking questions. Sara is the author of Home Cooking 101 and star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Sara, how are you?
Sara Moulton: Chris, I'm great. And I'm ready to go.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hey, this is Daniel.
CK: Daniel, how can we help you?
Caller: I'm curious to know what y'all would suggest as far as what kinds of knives every home cooks should look to have in their kitchen.
CK: Well, I assume you don't have an hour to talk about this. So, we'll keep this I can go on forever. There are three or four knives I would buy a nakiri. It's a Japanese vegetable knife. It's two inches deep, and it's very thin blade. It's just amazing knife to cut through vegetables. The basic concept is the thinner the blade, the less metal has to be pushed through the carrot or whatever. Secondly a Chinese cleaver which is four inches deep, it's heavier. A good Chinese cleaver Lampson makes one for example is on the thinner side. They're great. Some sort of paring knife you know smaller knife, four inches to three inches for small stuff. The last knife is up to you you can get you know like an eight-inch chef's knife all-purpose knife is fine or the Japanese equivalent of that if you like and that would be it. But I think the nakiri and the cleaver the two knives I use the most I use it for 80 90% of what I do. So Sara?
SM: Well interestingly enough, I would do something different, but there you go. I would spend some money in a really good chef's knife. And I would go with a 10-inch chef's knife because you can just get so much more done with it because it's sweet spot, which is the spot from the bolster, to say the middle of the knife is much larger on a 10- inch chef's than it is on an eight inch. Then there's two different styles, the Japanese, which are thinner knives, harder metal, and sharper edge. And then you have the German knives which are heavier, much heavier. The heft helps you to get through the vegetables or whatever you're cutting. So, you have your choice, but I would spend most of my money on that chef's knife. And then aside from that I would get a serrated and a good paring. I also like to have a boning knife. The boning knife will get into places and joints and angles that you just can't do with a paring knife.
CK: Yeah, I think those are good. The one thing I would caution though, is I find those heavier European knives to be difficult to control, you're more likely to cut yourself. So, my only piece of advice is before you buy a knife, pick it up, hold it in your hand. And if you feel like you have control over the knife, you feel comfortable with it. You're fine. If you feel you're not comfortable with it, it's just too much knife, don't buy it. Now I will be quiet, and my coconspirator can voice another
SM: I’ll very, very quickly wrap this up. I like having a big knife and I like having heavy knife because the weight of it brings it down. So, you don't have to push it. You don't really have to drive it. It will do the work for you.
CK: Tomorrow morning I'm going to order you a Chinese cleaver.
SM: Oh, please do
CK: I’ll send it overnight.
SM: I love it.
Caller: I'll take one too Chris. If you're passing those out
SM: Now we’re like Oprah and you can have one and you have one
CK: and everybody gets a free Chinese cleaver.
SM: Hey, Daniel. I hope that was helpful. Good question.
Caller: It sure was, I will very quickly say that I side with Sara and I must have a serrated knife for my sourdough bread.
CK: Yeah, that's fair. Just be careful of that big heavy knife.
Caller: Oh, yeah.
CK Daniel. Thanks.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: Thanks, y'all.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are ready to take your calls. Give us a ring anytime. 247 at 855-426-9843 one more time at 855 426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: My name is Vivian Presnick.
SM: Hi, Vivian. Where are you calling from?
Caller: I'm calling from Curry, North Carolina.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: I used to make something from a box mix. And it was a spoon bread and it just required eggs and milk and the texture was smooth and it was similar to a souffle. It was just a great side dish. I can no longer find that mix. And I've been trying a lot of different recipes. And I just can't seem to get it right. I've been researching this on the internet. And they do have different kinds of spoonbread some of them call for a heavy cream and some of them call for beating the egg whites separately.
SML: Well, you know what, there's a wonderful book it's called the Cornbread Gospels. What I came to understand looking at that book was that you make basically a cornmeal mush cornmeal added to water or milk and then you cook it sort of like a loose polenta and then to that you add your eggs, but depending on whether you want sort of custardy texture you add the whole eggs or if you want a souffle like texture, you add the yolks to the mush and beat the whites and fold them in. Anyway Chris, what are your thoughts?
CK: I think you really do have to treat it like a souffle, you really have to beat the whites separately. It's about the ratio between egg whites to the base. You might have to use more whites than yolks in this, but I think the yolks should go into the cornmeal mush with melted butter with milk than the yolks beat that in. It should not be too heavy. I think the base should be pretty like a Bechamel you know which would be a typical base for a souffle, it shouldn't be really dense. That's the first thing to watch out for. Usually when you make a souffle you want the egg whites and the bass to be kind of similar in texture so that they fold properly. So, I'd make sure that the base is lightened up and just add more milk and to get a lighter base. And then I would probably double the amount of whites over the yolks to give you a lighter result and I would add a little bit of sugar like a tablespoon to the whites to stabilize them as you beat them and a little cream of tartar. Definitely use beaten white separately.
SM: What Chris said I recommend also is adding a little bit of sugar to the egg whites when you beat them and don't beat them too stiff, stiff peaks, beat them to soft peaks and then take about a quarter of your beaten egg whites and actually stir it in to the cornmeal base which will lighten the base and then fold in the remaining Three quarters of beaten egg whites gently and just barely till they're folded in and that way you won't lose all the volume that you just achieved by beating the egg whites.
Caller: Those are really great suggestions. Does it matter what kind of milk I use or cornmeal, a very fine-grained cornmeal?
SM: I would say fine.
CK: You don't want to really coarse cornmeal for this. It's fairly refined. You know, this is not something you put in your saddlebag later This is white tablecloth cooking, so I think the finer side yes, absolutely.
SM: I'd say whole milk.
CK: Me too.
Caller: Okay. I will try that. Thank you so much for your suggestions and help. I really enjoyed talking with you. So thank you.
SM: Thanks, Vivian.
CK: Take care of yourself.
Caller: Okay. Bye bye.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, we're diving into British baking history with Regula Ysewijn that and more after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Regula Ysewijn she's a cookbook author and one of the judges on the Flemish version of the Great British Bake Off. Regula Welcome to milk Street.
RY: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here with you in Boston from my house in Antwerp.
CK: I've never been to Antwerp. First of all, I love your book. I love British baking. I love the history. And you just you can just see you just bathe in the wonders of these recipes. In fact, as a girl, I think your dream was to move to England and live in a limestone cottage by a stream. Was that your your goal in life?
RY: Yes, definitely. So, I fell in love with England hearing a nursery rhyme which was black swans, white swans who's coming to England with us. But England is closed, the key is broken. Is there a blacksmith in town who can mend a key for us? And I heard that, and I was thinking this must be such a magical country if it has like this big key and everyone's searching for a blacksmith to mend it. And I started asking my parents to go to England, like it was some kind of fairgrounds, everyone was going to Disneyland and I would just want to go to England. And after some years of nagging, my parents finally gifted me a day trip to Canterbury on on the ferry boat. And I remember just putting my feet on English soil for the first time telling my parents mom and dad when I grew up, I'm going to come and live here.
CK: You taught yourself English by reading Jane Austen, which really struck me because those are those are pretty tough books to start your your education in the English language.
RY: Very true. For me, it was Pride and Prejudice, which is I think, still the best Austin book. And to be fair, I first saw the television series with Colin Firth.
CK: So maybe it was Colin Firth that got you into Jane Austen in the first place
RY: That was very possible, but you know, when he walked out of that pond in his wet shirt, but funnily enough when I started out, writing professionally, I asked someone to give their opinion on how I write and she said, I can see in your writing that that is where you learned your English because the way you write sometimes is a little bit archaic, but it works. And then another place where I learned my English is is very important because if you learn a language, you should watch the soap series in the language. So, I've watched EastEnders, religiously, my entire life. So, I had on the one hand, I had this beautiful romantic book by Jane Austen. And on the other hand, I have a soap series about the daily life of people in the East End of London. And people always remarked that when I'm speaking, they can hear this East London accent in my in my voice, which is quite
CK: I noticed in the book you look like with your hairstyle that red dress you're wearing. In one photograph, you look like you were photographed, right in the First World War. In other words, your image in the book seems to go with the recipes in the book. Is that something that's very consciously done on your part or is that just you?
RY: Well, that's just really me. Apart from my love for history, in general and culinary history, I also have a passion for the history of fashion. I actually in a previous life, studied fashion, so I had to create historical costumes. And I've always found that modern clothing is often so boring, and often very ugly as well. I mean, why wear jeans and a T shirt if you can wear a beautiful dress with a petticoat and and do your hair up and put flowers in your hair, and just look fabulous. I mean, my day is so much better when I'm all dolled up. It's great fun, and it's part of my morning ritual, getting up and doing my hair in those victory rolls are cold, it's 1940s 1950s style. And I've got all these petticoats and beautiful dresses, a lot of them are even vintage originals from the 1950s 1960s. And I just think that the clothing of those periods was made for real women, for women with bums and breasts. I'm going to say how it is. But that's how it is.
CK: So, let's move on to food. Of course. I have some experience cooking out of older cookbooks, 19th century books, you actually have a copy of the 1737, The Complete Housewife, also called The Accomplished Gentleman's Companion. I found there lots of problems translating older recipes, the ingredients, etc. So, when you're reconstructing all recipes, what are some of the hurdles challenges you have to overcome?
RY: Well, it's something that you learn, obviously, you learn that if they are asking you to use 12 eggs, you should actually use six because eggs were just much smaller in the past. And you also learn to read between the lines and learn to see the lines that aren't actually there. Because in the past, recipes weren't written as very solid instructions as they are today. I mean, today we exaggerate almost in how we write a recipe. It's like you're holding someone's hand, and everything is explained, sometimes into the ridiculous. But in the older cookery books, the recipes are tiny, and they could translate into three 84 pages in today's world.
CK: I was on the East End of London at a bakery a few years ago, and she used apricot kernels, which I found fascinating, and you use them as well, you want to just talk about that.
RY: So, I use apricot kernels because in the past, they would have used a lot of bitter almonds. And bitter almonds are like sweet almonds, but we don't use the word sweet in front of almonds anymore because sweet almonds are the only almonds we still actually generally can buy today. But in the past that was specifications in recipes either saying sweets, or bitter almonds and bitter almonds give this amazing scent and taste of marzipan. That's where that flavor comes from. But apricot kernels, although not really almonds, they have the same flavor, the same scent. And the problem with bitter almonds was that in the skin and also a little bit in the almond itself. It contains cyanide, which is of course poisonous. Now, apricot kernels still contain a tiny amount of cyanide, so it's still not safe, you can't snack on them. You have to label your jar and say do not eat. Because here in Holland, someone has eaten an entire bag of apricot kernels on the train and the man almost lost his life. So, it is dangerous. But if you take care and you use just the amount that's required in a recipe, which is usually not a lot, and you usually bash them in a pestle and mortar and you mix it with rosewater and the combination with the rosewater the rosewater also keeps the knots from oiling but together it creates this beautiful ingredient to recipes.
CK: Gingerbread. Years ago, I was in the Lake District with a food historian who specialized in the Middle Ages and he showed me molds and some of those gingerbread were like three feet high. And they were baked sometimes for celebrations of the king and queen, etc. Could you tell us a little bit about gingerbread? Because I think here in the States, we know very little bit about it.
RY: Yeah, gingerbread is something that you can see all over Europe, we have this joint culture in gingerbread, but we all do it a little bit differently. Now, the gingerbread molds were not as common as they are here as I am in Flanders and in Holland, we use a mold for every gingerbread that we make apart from the block gingerbreads. But in the UK with a very, very pricey thing. It was something that was meant for the table of kings and queens, it would have been gilded with actual gold. And it was a very upper-class thing because the people who made early gingerbread were able to afford sugar, they were able to afford all the spices to go in the gingerbread.
CK: Jam Roly Poly’s you know, cake rolls we call them here are common in British baking. So, what's the history of those? Why are they so popular?
RY: Well, jam Roly Poly is actually a pudding and not a bake. So, it's it's boiled it’s basically like a Swiss roll. And instead of using another leavener you will use to it because as to it, it can take a lot of high temperatures and when it is boiling or steaming, little air pockets arrive and they create something that is much more fluffy. And for people in the past it would have been like a very airy bake while today if we taste this Roly Poly style pudding, we think of it as quite heavy. But if you look at how the climate is in Britain, it's it's it is more cold than what we have here in mainland Europe, we have much milder climate. And while we had these types of puddings, like jam Roly Poly as well here, it disappeared out of the history books while in the UK and Britain. They loved it, they they used it as a way to keep warm and to fill themselves up. It's It's so rooted in British culture.
CK: So Roly Poly is not done like a cake roll in an oven. How is it actually cooked?
RY: So, puddings, they are not baked in an oven indeed, they used to be baked on a stovetop, in a boiling pot of water. And at first, they would have been made in like something like a stomach or an animal intestine like the typical cottage dish of haggis. And then after a while, some clever person thought, ooh, I will actually want to make a pudding outside of the slaughter season when we have access to animal intestines, and they started using a cloth a piece of linen and tie that and then they would hang it in a pot of boiling water. Then afterwards, another clever person thought ha this is quite fussy. Why don't we put it in a pudding basin, and they created a pudding basin in the 19th century but of course, it is much more easy and much more tidy to steam it.
CK: Okay, fruitcakes here are not Beloved, because a lot of fruitcakes here are actually pretty awful. I happen to love them. Your wedding cake was a fruitcake, made months ahead of time and quote unquote fed cognac every few weeks. I'd like to be fed cognac every few weeks. Could you, could you sell me on this? I mean you said it was the best one of the best things you've ever had. Why was it so wonderful? And what's the difference between a great fruitcake and a bad one?
RY: Obviously it has to be made with love. That is the best ingredients but true it is you have to make it with love because you have to love a fruit cake or a Christmas cake for months in advance or weeks in advance. And if you forget and don't love your cake, then you forget to feed it with cognac or rum every few days or weeks and and you will end up with a very dry cake. And that's not what it should be it should be beautifully moist and dark and beautiful and velvety and and that is only something you can achieve if you do love your cake and feed it
CK: This collection of recipes you will never confuse with any other culture right. Why are the British so unique in their approach to baking is that their history their culture, what is it?
RY: While the French baking is all about embellishments and very difficult techniques. British baking is all about honesty. What you see is what you get, and you can't cover up a Victoria sponge cake in all types of embellishments. It's it is what it is is just to sponge cakes with jam in between but it better be the best sponge case you can make and the most tasty jam you can make. So, for me British cooking and it has been for centuries is about honesty. It's about substance over style.
CK: Regula it's been a great pleasure. Thank you for being on Milk Street
RY: Thank you for inviting me. It's been a pleasure.
CK: That was Regula Ysewijn she's the author of The British Baking book. And one of the most famous lines in English literature Oliver Twist, asked Mr. Bumble, please, sir, I want some more. You know, Dickens use food as metaphor to criticize the poor laws or maybe to celebrate human conviviality, as when Pickwick celebrates Christmas at Dingley Dell. In A Christmas Carol he writes, quote, “turkeys, geese, game poultry, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long reeds of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense 12, cakes and singing bowls of punch”. These all represent a life fully lived, as opposed to Scrooge is very mean bowl of porridge for Regula Ysewijn British baking represents a 19th century ideal. That's the romance of English country life. And that is why food is so powerful. It can be metaphor or just dinner. It's all up to you. It's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe positively Passatelli in Brodo Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris,
CK: How would you like to hear about one of my great trips?
LC: I always do. You go for it
CK: You can’t stand it. About a year ago, I was in Bologna, you know, Bologna till 10 years ago, nobody went there. I mean, it was not a big tourist destination. It's like a 14th century city, the oldest university in Europe. It's absolutely gorgeous but we went outside to a number of towns. One of them was Montevallo it's on the top of a hill. It's all cobblestone, you can't drive in the town, you have to walk, you know, it's like going to Disney World or something. Only 25 families lived there. There's an abbey on top of the mountain. And the best part is there's a tra ____ and the host, the owner is just absolutely charming. Paolo Parmigiana. You know, he gave us some wine course that always of course, and you go inside of some steps, and it looks like a little sort of Austrian guesthouse, you know, it's dark, there's a little bar and has little set of steps going up to the kitchen in back, which is the size of half an RV, it’s tiny but he made Passatelli inBrodo three bowls, breadcrumbs, eggs, grated Parmesan, and he just did this all by hand. It took about five minutes and it cooked it off and broth. It's cucina povera, right. It's sort of, you know, poor food, which is the best food in the world. It's so simple, I don't know, it was just stunning. Now it could have been the place it could have been the weather, it could have been Paolo, it could have been the wine, (or all of that) but I think it really was the passatelli it was just one of those classic, you know, dishes in that area. So, we came back and decided this had to be on top of our list of things to make
LC: It does because it's really simple. You can't imagine that these really simple ingredients could create something with so much flavor. It's sort of like the best chicken noodle soup you've ever had. And you've made everything yourself essentially, the noodle here is more like a dumpling. It's short and fat, with a ton of flavor to it. The flavors actually in that little dumpling. We make ours by putting some parmesan cheese panko breadcrumbs, they would use stale bread in Italy. We're using panko to keep everything normal for our recipe so my bread and your bread might be slightly different. Some eggs, a little bit of water, you mix that in the food processor it gets really thick almost like the texture of mashed potatoes, let it sit for a little bit and then the fun begins.
CK; Now do you use like a potato ricer to do this or what?
LC: In Italy they have a passatelli maker of course we obviously did not. So, we do we use a potato ricer, and you want to have a ricer that has larger holes. If you don't have a ricer, you can push it through a cooling rack. You drop it into boiling chicken broth and they just cook in about 30 seconds and then you take them out and let them cool so that they get nice and sturdy.
CK: This is a little spaetzle like right I mean it's the same, you have a dough you grate over boiling liquid
LC: Very similar technique. These are a little bit longer, maybe slightly more noodle like and the broth here is really important. If you can you really want to try to make your own broth. We have a couple of recipes on our website, one on the stovetop, it takes about an hour. The other one is in the instant pot. So, few ingredients here you really want to have good, flavorful broth.
CK: Well just buy a three or four pounds of chicken wings and throw them in an instant pot for 40 minutes. You're done right?
LC: It’s super simple, although I will say I've made this so many times and haven't always made it with homemade chicken broth.
CK: Lynn, Lynn
LC: the base and it's still really delicious
CK: Cheater, cheater. Anything else that goes into this or is that about it?
LC: So really simple to serve this you put some of the passatelli in a bowl add that really flavorful broth grate a little bit of parmesan on top and a grating of fresh nutmeg,
CK: Now the nutmeg, I remember that it seems simple it is simple but he kind of made the dish I never would have think nutmeg you know with a passatelli, but it was absolutely delicious. So passatelli in brodo cucina at its best simple ingredients, perfectly put together. Thank you, Lynn
LC: You're welcome Chris. You can get this recipe for passatelli in brodo at Milk Street Radio.com.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Adam Gopnik dines Alfresco. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to milk Street Radio right now. Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: This is Sean Jackson, calling from New Orleans. How are you all today?
CK: Good. How are you?
Caller: I'm doing well. I'm very excited to be speaking to you all.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, since I have been taught about baking and to bake different things from being a young girl, you know, certain things call for kneading. But I like a year ago tried to teach my daughter how to bake biscuits from scratch. And I told her okay, you have the knead. And when she asked me why I could not for the life of me articulate why. So, my question is, uh, why, how, when, why do we knead? How is the proper way to knead and when should we knead?
CK: Excellent questions. You know, I've made biscuits for years. Unless you're making beaten biscuits. You don't want to need biscuits, you want to be very, very gentle with them. Okay, I mix the fat and the salt and the leavener and the flour and a food processor they could do by hand. Then I add the buttermilk. Usually, I use or you could use some milk to the the mixture chills, just moist, and then you just want to press it together. But if you overwork it, it'll be tough. kneading is what you usually do for bread. And the reason for that is you want to create structure so when the bread rises, it inflates and becomes lighter. There are two proteins in bread flour, gluten and gliadin. Not that it matters. In the presence of water, they form gluten. And gluten is that elastic texture that you get in bread dough as you knead it, which allows the dough to inflate right. The only secret here is the water will actually do it for you. So, if you let the dough sit around long enough, the proteins will come together to form gluten. If you want to speed up the process, however you do it by hand or do it in a mixer and that helps create that gluten bond. So, in bread, the more you form gluten, the more elastic it is the more it rises the lighter the final product. In a cake or biscuit, the more you develop gluten or pie dough, the tougher it's going to be because those things are not rising like a balloon does with bread. So, the quick answer is for quick breads like pancakes or biscuits etc. You don't want to overwork the flour the dough, but in a bread dough. When you want to elasticity for rise, you do want to do it. So that was my 10-minute speech. Sara, are you awake? After all that?
SM: That was very well done. The other way to make bread without kneading it is to add a lot more liquid. It's got to be a very wet bread. But that would be a recipe that you could lose for under the category of No need bread, because you need to have the right percentage of liquid to flour. It's a very, very wet dough.
CK: But there there are books about no knead bread baking, you could just get one of those books it would tell you all about it.
Caller: Okay, Yes, thank you.
CK: Well, it's been a real pleasure having you on Milk Street. Thank you so much.
SM: You're welcome.
Caller: Thank you.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need some help in the kitchen, give us a call that number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-469-8943 or drop us an email questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Carla V__ and I'm from Corvallis, Oregon. Hello,
SM: Hello, how can we help you today?
Caller: I have a question about baking cookies. I have a dad who's going to be turning 77. And I always send him something and his birthday. And I always think of something he likes, and I was thinking about old fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies. But no to me, they always kind of taste kind of sweet and uninteresting. And so, I was trying to think of a way that I could kind of make an adult version and I was thinking about some of the things that I had heard on your show things like I think there was a chocolate chip cookie recipe where you subbed the rye flour maybe and toasted it. Yeah, and I call I've heard callers talk about toasting nuts. And just seeing if you had any thoughts on how I might make it a more adult version because I hate cooking things that I hate to eat and I don't normally eat a regular oatmeal cookie. Well,
SM: Well, I think everything you've suggested is brilliant toasting everything toasting the nuts toasting the oats, you can do that or the flour and or the flour. You can brown the butter, maybe put some other dried fruit other than raisin, all of the things you just suggested, sounded smart.
CK: For our chocolate chip cookie you mentioned we brown the flour in a skillet and then add butter and brown that so browning and really brown the butter darkly without burning and then also the spices bloom the spices in the melted butter, and you brown it.
SM: That's a great idea
CK: that'll add a lot of flavor to it. And you might even sneak in a couple more interesting spices while you're at it,
Caller: like cardamon maybe or something like that. I was sick of that kind of cinnamon.
CK; And I think the oatmeal cookies for me, I think have too many spices is too I don't like cinnamon in it. And I'd be very, very frugal with the use of spices but I think browning and toasting flours. The other thing you mentioned was rye flour, which was in our chocolate chip cookies. I think rye flowers is bitter so if you want to make them more adult, substitute out a little bit of the regular flour for rye flour.
Caller: It calls for two cups. What do you think like maybe a quarter to a half?
CK: I’d use a cup and a half of oats and then maybe a half a cup of flour, half regular flour, half rye quarter cup each.
SM: Have you experimented on your father this way before?
CK: Nice way of putting it
Caller: Well, I know I started cooking for my my family when I was 10 when my mom went back to work, you know a lot of it was experimentation and just going to a spice track. So, my dad is pretty good to being experimented on and he's pretty good. And anytime somebody gives you cookies I think for the most part you're pretty on board with what they give you.
SM: Yeah, I think you'll have fun with this and let us know how it goes.
Caller: I will, One last thing. What do you think about sea salt on the top does that? Yes. I was worried about Yeah, Yeah,
CK: Yeah, I do. Always always put sea salt on top
SM: Sea salt points things up. Good idea.
Caller: Yeah, I think so too. Thanks so much for taking my call. I appreciate all your suggestions
CK: Our pleasure. Thanks.
Caller: Take care. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, this is john Applegate from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And here's my tip. If you want to add a nice bright citrus flavor to cold dessert recipes, like a ganache or a mousse without having pieces of zest ruin the creaminess of your finished product. Grate the zest with a micro-plane grater, then squeezes us through a piece of cheesecloth to extract the citrus oil. It's better and fresher tasting than an extract and you're buying an orange or lemon anyway. If you're adding it to a chocolate ganache wait until the cream has fully melted the chocolate. Cooking the citrus oil with cream will destroy the bright fresh flavor. Citric oils can also be added to salad dressings using the same method.
CK: If you'd like to share your own tip or secret ingredient on milk street radio, please go to Milk Street at 177 milk Street com slash radio tips. Next up it's time to ask Adam Gopnik, what he's thinking about this week. Adam, how are you doing? How's your week been?
Adam Gopnik: It's been reasonably good.
CK: That's good enough for me.
AG: Well, we're living in uniquely complicated and troubled, and in their own strange way rewarding times. And of course, one of the things that I've been obsessed with in the last weeks and months, is watching the construction of outdoor eating spaces on the streets of New York City. And it's been a fascinating thing to watch. And when outdoor dining began, in the summer, it was outdoor dining, restaurants just took their tables and chairs and picked them up and move them into the spaces where parked cars once persisted. But then naturally, as the cold weather fell, the restaurateurs of New York struggling as they are put on this amazing display of indigenous architecture. Now, some of what became outdoor dining in New York, were simply indoor dining brought forward. Huts, and, and little sheds. It was spaces that had walls that had a roof. And that very often had not only a door but heating inside it. And it was a sort of demonstration of the philosophical principle that all indoors is simply outdoors that is now enclosed. So, the notion that this now counted as outdoors was transparently ridiculous. And yet, we perpetuated it. But many of the restauranteurs were more ingenious than that. And what they did is begin to construct these amazingly beautiful and complicated structures that were simultaneously indoors and outdoors that had completely open sides, for instance, but a strong roof with bracers heating elements hanging from it. Other places, instead of having no walls chose to have no roof, and other places moved towards a tent that looked like something out of a medieval tournament than you expected jousters to be going up and down Madison Avenue, and then there was the invention of the rentable igloo. I don't know if you've heard about the igloos. You can now rent your own igloo, which seats four you can bring the igloo outside and have your igloo tea or brunch or dinner. And I know of several couples, particularly older couples, who now have their igloos in their back gardens so that they can retire from their dole normal life to go to the igloo for a little romantic moment. I don't know if you ever saw the great movie by Robert Flaherty Nanook of the North, but it was about how the Inuit’s used their igloos, and they use them specifically for sharing seal blubber and for making love. So, in New York, we have now passed through the full cycle of indigenous architecture. The lesson if you're wondering, yeah, I'm
CK: Yeah, I'm really wondering about the lesson here.
AG: The lesson is, human beings haven't unappeasable need for social interaction. And even in the midst of pandemics and even at the top of the hardest crisis that the city has ever known. That will to be alongside our fellow human beings is so strong, that we when we put our minds to it, instead of feeling defeated by the impossibility, we feel lit up by the necessity and the range of possible solutions that comes up from tents, to huts right onto the igloo fills our hearts and cheers our minds as well. It shows us that we are undefeatable in our pursuit of company.
CK: You know, the only thing I can think about right this moment is that very rich New Yorkers because you have to be rich to have a garden in New York are going into their igloos for blubber and sex.
AG: Well, I should add to that, though, it's true. You have to be a very wealthy New Yorker to have your own private garden. The igloo gardens I was thinking of actually we're in what we call laughingly garden apartments, which are basically basement apartments that look out on the back of the building. So maybe we should call these airshaft igloos Christopher, rather than garden igloos, I have thought is you know, we live in an apartment, but I have thought of actually buying or renting one of these igloos and putting it in the front hall. So, we have a place to adjourn to as Victorian diners used to adjourn to the I guess it was to the parlor to have cigars and brandies. It does show you that human ingenuity in the pursuit of sociability knows no limits.
CK: Well, I'm also thinking of the totally opposite experience. Maybe it's Norway or Finland. Didn't people used to if they wanted to have solace and peace from the family because they had a very small home, didn't they sit in the corner and they were able to signal they wanted privacy and some alone time. So, I wonder that people want to come together. At the same time, we're all in these homes together as a family, and people also are looking for a way to be by themselves too right? Well, that's a fairly strong motivationin family life
AG: This you've put your finger on or you've drawn a line that's very powerful in my own family because my wife's family are Scandinavian Icelandic and my family, of course, are Jewish. And it's perfectly true. The Scandinavians need to signal the need for isolation. The Jewish side of the family always wants to signal a place where you can gather together and start arguing about some completely irrelevant subject. I'm working on a memoir right now. And the first line is they could argue about anything.
CK: Well, I think the only thing I would say is that I need to get an igloo for one
AG: I you know what I think an igloo for one is called it's one of those ice fishing cabins, right?
CK: That's exactly right.
AG: So far is has been known. No one has ever caught a fish in an ice fishing cabin. But many people have been drunk and happy within them. That's I think that's the point.
CK: That's I think that's the point. Adam Gopnik whether you are looking for argument and togetherness or the Scandinavian notion of being completely and happily alone, New Yorkers are going to both extremes. Thank you.
AG: Meet you in your igloo Christopher.
CK: That was Adam Gopnik, staff writer for The New Yorker. You know, the pandemic has changed not only what we eat, but where we ate it, I’ve eaten restaurant meals outside although I once had to cancel a reservation after a foot of snow fell that afternoon. And I've served many meals around a fire pit in Vermont with temperatures in the very low 20s. It turns out that parka and mittens are what to wear around the pandemic table. You know cooking is the new camping. That's it for this week's show if you tuned in to later want to binge listen every single episode you can download Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street please visit us at 177 Milk Street com there you can find our recipes take a free online cooking class or order our latest cookbook Cookish. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter and 177. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH executive producer Melissa Baldino. Senior audio editor Melissa Allison. Production assistant Sarah Clapp, production help Debby Paddock, additional editing by Sidney Lewis. Audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk street radio is distributed by the public radio exchange.